According to the account given by Hayes, Miller did not say simply that conclusions about God are non-scientific and philosophical. He also informed his audience that creationists are “shooting at the wrong target.” The clear implication is that there is a correct target to be shooting at, and it is clear from the rest of Miller’s remarks that that target comprises atheists and humanists.
Indeed it does suggest that there is a correct target, but Miller doesn’t direct people against people (atheists and humanists) but against ideas. And that’s a good thing. We should discuss ideas, even attack them if we think they’re wrong.
Miller thinks it’s wrong to draw theological conclusions from science. He thinks creationists are wrong to do that, so he opposes ID and other creationists when they advance that argument. He also thinks that atheists are wrong to argue that evolution somehow demonstrates or supports atheism.
As PZ noted, Miller is a creationist, and he is a supporter of evolution. He sees the wisdom of his God in the biology he studies and in everything that happens. And he sees in the clear evidence of experiment that evolution happens.
One can be a creationist without espousing bad arguments, such as an insistence that scientific evidence is wrong. One can be an atheist without espousing the argument that scientific evidence disproves God’s existence. Those are both bad arguments, rooted in the same error – a failure to distinguish science from theology.
He quoted Philip Johnson saying “The objective of our strategy is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic. That will shift the debate from creation versus evolution to the existence or nonexistence of God. From there we can introduce people to the truth of the Bible, the question of sin, and finally we can introduce them to Jesus.” Miller concluded by saying “As a Christian, of course I’d want to introduce people to Jesus, I just wouldn’t want to do it under the guise of science.” Then he criticizes people who’ve used science to attack religion. Not only are they replicating the category error that Johnson, et al. make, they are playing into their hands by fighting on the wrong battlefield.
Miller dubs people who feel compelled to attack belief in religion as “anti-theists,” people who take a philosophical interpretation about the nonexistence of God from evolution itself, a philosophy he describes as hostility to religion (rather than antipathy or personal rejection alone). “Faced with this hostility,” Miller explained, “the creation scientists, for example, decided we’ve got to do something about this. Their solution, however, was to ignore this interpretation, and to go after evolution itself. … The contribution or the suggestion that I would like to make to this dialogue … is that people of faith are shooting at the wrong target. And that Instead, what they should be shooting at is not evolution itself … but rather the anti-theistic interpretation of evolution. And that, I am convinced, is ultimately the road to peace.”
PZ Myers has asked (including in the comments to the post quoted above):
What, exactly, is his “road to peace”? He said he has a solution — what is it? Is it realistic? Do you understand how to implement it? Do you think it will work?
I think it’s obvious that he’s arguing that we shouldn’t use the Bible as a scientific textbook, nor to scientific knowledge as a religious document. Accept that questions of religion cannot be scientifically tested, and that people will disagree. Make your theological arguments not on the back of science, but on theological grounds. That goes for atheists (even anti-theists) and theists. That’s the road to peace.
There were atheists before Darwin, and the advance of science has left fewer gaps for a God of the gaps to hide in. Bad theologies, theologies that insisted on staking a scientific position, have fallen by the wayside. But to leap from that to a claim that theology doesn’t exist goes beyond science. And that’s all Miller claimed.
What Miller would have people turn their sights on is not atheists, but to the aspects of atheism that they find troubling or problematic. People have no fundamental beef with the idea of common ancestry. Spending time really analyzing that won’t get us anywhere. Some people have a beef with the idea of a random universe, with a God who would waste so much life to produce the diversity we have today. Others wonder where morality comes from if God didn’t create us and hand Moses two tablets. Fine. Let’s discuss that.
Let’s have a discussion about how to be moral, and let’s decide what of that we want taught in schools. We can do that. It would be interesting. And it wouldn’t require anyone to attack evolution, nor to attack theism.